Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Doing" Critical Pedagogy in the K-12 Space

Came across an interesting post on The Freire Project, "Everyday Critical Pedagogies Do Exist" that was a response to a comment about whether or not critical pedagogy should be promoted within the K-12 space, or best used/pushed at higher education institutions and community groups, etc. Which makes more sense?

This is something that I've pondered as an elementary school teacher and critical pedagogue. It is easier to envision or make concrete my own critical pedagogy outside of the K-12 space-- in applied theatre, in my writing, in my political thinking and action. Certainly, these beliefs and philosophies inform my practice as a second grade special education teacher, and prior as a K-8 theatre and movement teaching artist. However, I grapple with the question: Do I have an everyday critical pedagogy?

I'm not sure. I try to. I'm figuring out exactly what that means. I first thought that my beliefs about critical pedagogy would influence mostly the content I teach and how I teach it (and it certainly does); I am learning more and more that perhaps it influences my views of my special needs students and the way I interact with them more than the aforementioned.

Building a community in which my special needs learners have agency and are viewed as whole human beings rather than disabled or deficient children veers me away from using certain behavior modification and token economy techniques that are so often pushed in classrooms. As a critical pedagogue I am always trying to reevaluate my own assumptions and make and remake myself as an educator and a student. I try to observe, listen, and understand my students more and more. I attempt to create a circle of learning, instead of what a traditional classroom usually becomes. At times, I fail. I know that I talk more than my students. I know that I do not yet give them enough opportunities to be heard and to use their language, to inquire and reflect on the world. I don't think I'm patient enough for that to happen as much as it should. I'm working on it.

The thought just popped into my mind about one of my favorite quotes: If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." I think I do feel that way within my classroom. We are bound, and teaching and learning has become much more than helping. I can't explain much more than that right now, but I am continuing to learn what it means to be a critical pedagogue with my second grade wonders.